Archive for April, 2013

30
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘The Greatest Wonder of the World’ at the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 23rd Feb 2013 – 12th May 2013

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company. '[Merlin's photographic cart ?] and Mitchell's London Hotel, Railway Place, Sandridge [Port Melbourne]' 1870-1875

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company
[Merlin’s photographic cart?] and Mitchell’s London Hotel, Railway Place, Sandridge [Port Melbourne]
1870-1875

 

 

Another fascinating posting, this time featuring Australian colonial photography. In 1951, a hoard of 3,500 glass plate negatives from the nineteenth century was discovered in a garden shed in Chatswood. In time, the find proved to be the most important photographic documentation of goldfields life in Australia. All negatives have now been scanned at high resolution and for the first time in 140 years, it is possible to see what Merlin and Bayliss (from the American & Australasian Photographic Company) photographed, with astonishing clarity and fidelity. “Many of the images in the Holtermann collection were created for an ambitious 1870s publicity campaign to sell the wonders of the Australian colonies to the world.”

What I find particularly interesting is the familiarity of all photographs of goldfields from around the world, whether it be Californian or Victorian – the working class men, the pictures of diggings, etc… but also the particular Australian vernacular that these photographs possess. The photographs could be taken no where else but Australia. Observe the abject poverty of some of the shopkeepers – draper, blacksmith, bootmaker and undertaker (who also acted as carpenter, joiner, builder and cabinet maker) – the timber clad facade of their buildings failing to conceal the bark structure behind (see Holmes, bootmaker, and Spiro Bennett’s store, Gulgong, 1872 below). And yet in their poverty they still thought it important to spend money on advertising with wonderful examples of distinctive typography that I have highlighted in detail – on the photographers, bakers and tent makers shops, on the undertakers facade replete with horses and funeral carriage, and on the painters and sign writers bark clad establishment. Contemporary typographers could have a field day studying these photographs for new typefaces!

Notice in the detail wonderful things:

The roughness of a man’s hand as they stand in front of their loot, the gold specimens;
The incongruous sight of toy dogs among the rough-and-ready types that inhabited a frontier gold town;
The riding crop tucked under the arm of one of the detectives;
The flour that covers the bakers shoes;
The decorative wallpaper hanging outside the painter and signwriters shack, the word ‘Sacred’ on top of the mirror, and his name ‘J.H. Osborne Painter No.2′ emblazoned on the side of his ladder.

 

Of particular poignancy is the way the undertaker William Lewis leans in the entrance of his establishment. Propped up against the door (to stop himself from moving during the exposure), his hands stiffly by his side, his eyes stare straight ahead as though he is in a trance. In the photograph he has almost become the corpse that it is his business to bury. We must also acknowledge the temporary nature of these gold field towns, their unsubstantial character and the transitory life of the people that lived and died in them. Bootmaker William Holmes’ wife passed away a few months after the photograph of her family was taken. It was a tough life living on a frontier town. We can also note how desolate the major cities seem, as can be seen in photographs of Sandridge [Port Melbourne] and Pall Mall, Bendigo, with the odd carriage on the street and a single man standing on a street corner.

This is such a rich photographic collection and to have all the negatives digitised and available online is such a pleasure, such a treasure for Australian photographers, historians, researchers and the general public who, with an inquiring mind, can begin to understand the colonisation and conquest of this never empty country.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the State Library of New South Wales for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

The State Library of NSW’s world-renowned photographic archive, the Holtermann collection, will be officially included on the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World register at a ceremony in May 2013… The Australian UNESCO Memory of the World program is part of an international initiative, which aims to safeguard the documentary heritage of humanity and recognise the significance of all heritage materials… Many of the images in the Holtermann collection were created for an ambitious 1870s publicity campaign to sell the wonders of the Australian colonies to the world. The campaign was funded by German-born entrepreneur, Bernhardt Otto Holtermann, who made his fortune from mining in Hill End. For the first time 100 amazing large format prints from the Holtermann collection are on show [until 12 May] in the State Library’s free exhibition, The Greatest Wonder of the World.

 

 

Beaufoy Merlin. 'Short Street, Hill End' 1872

 

Beaufoy Merlin (Australian, 1830-1873)
Short Street, Hill End
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 5/No. 18504

 

 

Hill End in 1872 was a gold town at its peak. According to the Empire 7 June 1872, “The streets were thronged by a motley crowd; the stores and places of business crowded with customers; the little theatre so densely packed by an admiring audience, that there was not what is facetiously called ‘standing room,’ and even the public-houses, whose name is legion, were crammed. Yet I saw less, far less, drunkenness than can be met with in any street in the metropolis after 10 o’clock at night. There were very few inebriates, no filthy dishevelled women, no crouching loafers, no abject vice. The general aspect of the crowds of decently dressed folk who thronged ‘The Hill’ was that of respectability – rough indeed in many respects, and loud and noisy too, in some instances, but not disreputable, and altogether good-humoured.”

 

American & Australasian. 'Photographic Company Hawkins Hill 'Golden Quarter Mile'' 1872

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company
Hawkins Hill ‘Golden Quarter Mile’
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 71/No. C

 

 

This panorama of Hawkins Hill was taken by Beaufoy Merlin, who erected his camera in a tree more than a kilometre away across a gully nearly 300 metres deep. In the centre of the image is Krohmann’s mine, with the twin buildings and two storied structure of Beyers and Holtermann’s immediately to the left of it. These two mines contributed to the 12.4 tonnes of gold extracted from Hawkins Hill, but such are the vagaries of goldmining, that Rapp’s, on the extreme right, returned little to its investors, despite digging to a depth of over 380 feet [115 metres]. An almost identical view of the Hawkins Hill ‘Golden Quarter Mile’ taken by Merlin appeared as an engraving in the Australian Town and Country Journal 18 May 1872.

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Gold Specimens from the Star of Hope mine' 1872

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company
Gold Specimens from the Star of Hope mine
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 71/No. T

 

 

A month before discovery of the 286 kg Holtermann “nugget” [estimated to hold around 93kg of gold], Bernhardt Holtermann (second from left) Richard Ormsby Kerr (centre) and Louis Beyers (fourth from left) posed with 3,663 ozs [114 kg] of gold specimens from their claim. The specimens were described in The Sydney Morning Herald 28 September 1872 ; “To say they were good would be to say but little – they were almost without rival – magnificent – the talk of this town, where specimens are not unknown.” Holtermann took the best to the Sydney Mint for smelting, “as being clotted with gold it would be almost impossible to crush it in the ordinary way.” The item of clothing on the floor to the right is Beyer’s waistcoat.

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Gold Specimens from the Star of Hope mine' 1872 (detail)

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company
Gold Specimens from the Star of Hope mine (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 71/No. T

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'A domestic miner [Hill End]' 1872

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company
A domestic miner [Hill End]
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 10/No. 70154

 

 

Thomas Browne (better known as Rolf Boldrewood) was Gold Commissioner in Gulgong, during the period of Merlin and Bayliss’s photographs. Although this photograph was taken in Hill End, Boldrewood’s description of the domestic miner in his novel The Miners Right seems universal. “The thrifty miner who possesses the treasure, not less common on Australian goldfields than in other places, of a cleanly managing wife, is enabled to surround himself with rural privileges. A plot of garden ground, well fenced, grows not only vegetables but flowers, which a generation since were only to be found in conservatories… the domestic miner is often seen surrounded by his children, hoeing up his potatoes or cauliflowers, or training the climbing rose which beautifies his rude but by no means despicable dwelling.”

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Studio and staff of American & Australasian Photographic Co., Hill End' 1872

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company
Studio and staff of American & Australasian Photographic Co., Hill End
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 9/No. 18850

 

 

The American and Australasian Photographic Company established a studio in Tambaroora Street, Hill End in 1872. Beaufoy Merlin’s assistant Charles Bayliss stands, hands in pockets, in the doorway, with studio operator James Clinton behind him. Beside the door is a frame containing large photographic views of Sydney, including the General Post Office and harbour.

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Studio and staff of American & Australasian Photographic Co., Hill End' 1872 (detail)

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company
Studio and staff of American & Australasian Photographic Co., Hill End (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 9/No. 18850

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Blacksmith William Jenkyns' 1872

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company
Blacksmith William Jenkyns
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 7/No. 18715

 

 

William Jenkyns’ blacksmith and shoeing forge was situated in Clarke Street, Hill End. The condition of roads around Hill End ensured Jenkyns was busy. A correspondent to The Sydney Morning Herald 23 May 1872 wrote of the road between Bathurst and Hill End, “For miles at a stretch there is nothing to indicate that any money has been spent upon the road for years, and it is doubtful whether any portion of it has ever been properly made.” On 3 December 1872 another wrote, “I think I have travelled the worst of roads; for the sake of humanity, I hope there are none worse than those I have travelled.” Despite a superficial resemblance, the man on the right is not B.O. Holtermann.

 

Gibbs, Shallard & Co., Colour Printers [188-?] 'Holtermann's Life Preserving Drops' 1872

 

Gibbs, Shallard & Co., Colour Printers [188-?]
Holtermann’s Life Preserving Drops
1872
Poster

 

 

There is no doubt that Bernhardt Otto Holtermann understood the importance and value of maintaining his association with the world’s largest specimen of reef gold. Unable to purchase the monster quartz and gold specimen when it was extracted from the Star of Hope mine in Tambaroora in 1872, he commissioned the American and Australasian Photographic Company to produce a photographic montage of him standing beside it. Photographers Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss seem to have carried out this assignment on more than one occasion, as Holtermann wears different clothing in the several known examples of the image.

Obviously pleased with the result, Holtermann used the montage on his business card and on the label to a patent medicine bearing his name. As an advertising ploy, the image of Holtermann resting his hand on the world’s largest hunk of gold can only have been interpreted as a symbol of success and a guarantee of the worth of his product.

(Alan Davies author)

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'B.O. Holtermann with the Holtermann Nugget, North Sydney' 1874-1876?

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company
B.O. Holtermann with the Holtermann Nugget, North Sydney
1874-1876?

 

 

During the 1870’s goldrush in central New South Wales, Bernard Holtermann, his partners and miners brought the largest agglomeration of gold to the surface. It was not a nugget of pure gold but he was instantly rich! An even larger gold find was broken up when it came to the surface in late January-early February 1873 but it was not photographed. With his wealth Holtermann financed the photography of the goldfields, a collection of international significance showing the ordinary people from all over the world with their houses and businesses on the goldfields. This composite photograph was put together later to give the appearance of Holtermann with the gold on the veranda of his new mansion at North Sydney, now the site of Shore Grammar School.

Three photographs were used to create this image of Holtermann, (supposedly holding the worlds’ largest accumulation of rock and gold ever brought to the surface in one piece). He was posed in the studio with his hand on a headclamp, the nugget was inserted and both placed on a photograph of the verandah of his mansion, built from the proceeds of his goldmine. The “nugget” was found in Hill End, New South Wales on 19th October 1872. More than half of the 630 lbs weight was pure gold, value 12,000 pounds ($24,000). With gold worth say $1400 per ounce, the value today would be over $A7,000,000. Amazingly Holtermann’s mine had already made him rich before the discovery of this boulder and there was reputed to be an even larger aggregate in the mine!

 

 

In 1872, the newly rich Bernhardt Otto Holtermann used some of his wealth to employ Henry Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss, of the American and Australasian (A&A) Photographic Company, to photograph gold producing areas and cities in NSW and Victoria for exhibition overseas. These images provide the most comprehensive and detailed record of nineteenth century goldfields life and, with the commissioned photographs, now form the Library’s Holtermann archive of 3500 wet plate negatives. The Greatest Wonder of the World features this extraordinary collection of nineteenth century documentary images. Through enlargements, digital images and a selection of vintage prints and wet plate negatives, the exhibition tells the remarkable story of the A&A Photographic Company and the philanthropy and vision of Bernhardt Holtermann.

In 1951, a hoard of 3,500 glass plate negatives from the nineteenth century was discovered in a garden shed in Chatswood. In time, the find proved to be the most important photographic documentation of goldfields life in Australia. The photographers responsible for the images were Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss of the American and Australasian Photographic Company, who had travelled to the town of Hill End in 1872 to record the rush. From there, they also recorded the burgeoning Gulgong and Mudgee goldfields.

In October 1872, the world’s largest specimen of reef gold, known as the Holtermann nugget, was unearthed at nearby Hawkins Hill and Merlin and Bayliss were there to record it. In an extraordinary act of patronage, the newly rich Bernhardt Otto Holtermann used some of his wealth to employ Merlin and Bayliss to photograph other gold producing areas and cities in NSW and Victoria for exhibition overseas. Proud of his own success, he believed that his travelling exposition would encourage immigration to Australia.  Merlin and Bayliss’s documentation was slow, with long exposures and the difficulty of processing one photograph at a time. Their wet plate negatives captured exceptional detail, but copies made in the twentieth century failed to reveal the wealth of information hidden within.

In 2008, plans were made to digitally scan the Holtermann Collection at very high resolution and this became reality through the generous assistance of the Graham and Charlene Bradley Foundation; Simon and Catriona Mordant; Geoffrey and Rachel O’Conor; Morningstar and numerous other benefactors. For the first time in 140 years, it is possible to see what Merlin and Bayliss photographed, with astonishing clarity and fidelity.

Press release from the State Library of New South Wales website

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company. '[French warship 'Atalante', Fitzroy Dock, Sydney, 1873]' Aug 1873

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company
[French warship ‘Atalante’, Fitzroy Dock, Sydney, 1873]
Aug 1873

 

 

This photograph of the French warship Atalante in Fitzroy Dock on Cockatoo Island, with Balmain in the background, was taken in August 1873. Built in 1865, the iron clad Atalante had a protruding brass bow for ramming lesser vessels. It had taken part in the Franco Prussian War in 1870 and at the time of this photograph was the flagship of the Pacific Squadron, under the command of Rear Admiral Baron Roussin. Beaufoy Merlin was particularly pleased with his photographs of the Atalante and wrote about them in the Town and Country Journal.

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company. '[French warship 'Atalante' at Fitzroy Dock, Sydney, 1873 / attributed to the American & Australasian Photographic Company]' 1873

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company
[French warship ‘Atalante’ at Fitzroy Dock, Sydney, 1873 / attributed to the American & Australasian Photographic Company]
1873

 

 

“… One of the solar pictures which I took on the occasion of my last visit to the Atalante, of which an engraving accompanies the present pen-and-ink sketch, is taken  from the rocks to the north-west, and shows her “ram,” with its massive projecting extremity of solid brass, her swelling sides, portholes, section of the dock, and men at work. The steps to the bottom of the basin as well as [its depth], are fairly indicated. Probably there is no one more difficult to please in procuring a picture of this kind than the landscape photographer himself. I may therefore be permitted to say in behalf of the one referred to, that it gave me satisfaction.”

Sadly, these images of Atalante were among the last photographs taken by Merlin. He contracted pneumonia and died, age 43, in September 1873.

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Herbert Street, west side looking north from Mayne Street and showing Barnes' Chemist Shop, Gulgong' 1872

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company
Herbert Street, west side looking north from Mayne Street and showing Barnes’ Chemist Shop, Gulgong
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18242

 

 

The incongruous sight of toy dogs among the rough-and-ready types that inhabited a frontier gold town has been captured in this view of Herbert Street, Gulgong. According to the Empire 28 May 1872 “The streets – so to call the dusty avenues between the rows of shops and Inns – are thronged in the daytime, by much about the same number, though not, apparently by the same sort of persons, as the streets in Sydney. There is not the same bustling activity about them… There are also fewer women amongst them, and fewer well dressed men. The yellow, clay-stained fustian trousers which have never made and never will make acquaintance with the wash-tub, invest the lower extremities of every two men out of three…”

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Charles Bird, Medical Hall, Gulgong' 1872

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company
Charles Bird, Medical Hall, Gulgong
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18160

 

 

The Medical Hall of Charles Bird Jnr was situated at the corner of Belmore and Herbert Streets, Gulgong. Charles Bird Snr. conducted another shop at the corner of Mayne and Herbert Streets, until the Medical Hall was sold and converted into a hotel in 1879. The Gulgong Guardian 20 November 1872 noted that Charles Bird had received a new disinfectant “which will be invaluable during the summer months to all who are unfortunate enough to live in those parts of town where stenches are pungent and plentiful.”

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Holmes, bootmaker, and Spiro Bennett's store, Gulgong' 1872

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company
Holmes, bootmaker, and Spiro Bennett’s store, Gulgong
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 3/No. 18314

 

 

This timber clad facade fails to conceal the bark structure behind and the poverty of its inhabitants. This is Gulgong bootmaker William Holmes and his family outside their shop in Mayne Street west. His wife Emily, in the doorway, died a few months after the photograph was taken. The town’s short-term architecture was described in The Sydney Morning Herald 30 September 1872. “Gulgong is not singular in its buildings. The followers of alluvial rushes have ere this found that business is fleeting. As leads work out so does business tide away. Hence have we buildings of a temporary nature; and, although the town of Gulgong may be reckoned three years old, yet not a single brick building stands on its site…”

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'The detectives' 1872

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company
The detectives
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18246

 

 

These are detectives Charles Powell and Robert Hannan, outside their Gulgong office. They had plenty to do. In a letter to the editor of the Maitland Mercury 16 May 1872, William Collins stated “The people (except the bankers and storekeepers), are in general a rough and ready set, occasionally a fight is to be seen, but the very diligent police speedily settle such hostile engagements, by marching the pugilists to a place called the town cage, from which place they are brought in the morning before the magistrate, who has often heard of mercy, but does not know what it means…” Powell and Hannan arrested 14 Chinese for gambling in January 1872 and the Empire 20 January 1872 noted, “In all these cases the lawyers reap a rich harvest, and it was somewhat amusing to witness their actively and interest within ten minutes of the time of arrest.”

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'The detectives' 1872 (detail)

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company
The detectives (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18246

 

American & Australasian Photographic. 'Company William Lewis, undertaker' 1872

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company
William Lewis, undertaker
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18168

 

 

The establishment of William Thomas Lewis, Undertaker and Carpenter at the corner of Belmore and Herbert Streets was primitive, but his funerals were said to be carried out ‘with his usual taste and completeness’. In 1871, Gulgong lacked a suitable place for burials and the Gulgong Guardian commented several times on the growing outcry for a cemetery. The locals had a valid complaint, particularly because of the considerable mortality rate among the young. In April 1871 alone, nine children died in a fortnight. Even Thomas De Courcy Brown, editor of the Guardian, lost his daughter Rose, age 7 months, in December that year. In January 1872, there were 37 deaths in Gulgong, (including 21 children under 5 years) and 17 births. The newspaper complained that the new cemetery was still unfenced.

 

American & Australasian Photographic. 'Company William Lewis, undertaker' 1872 (detail)

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company
William Lewis, undertaker (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18168

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'John Osborne, painter and signwriter' 1872

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company
John Osborne, painter and signwriter
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 4/No. 18372

 

 

J.H. Osborne, painter & signwriter of Gulgong also supplied decorative wallpaper. It seems he painted faux marble headstones as well. Osborne’s bark clad establishment was located at 2 Medley Street, at the sparsely populated northern end of town, which explains the prominent display of his sign writing skill. The Empire 28 May 1872 commented on the temporary nature of buildings in Gulgong. “The shops and public-houses are, for the most part, of a very temporary and unsubstantial character, considered as buildings. A large proportion of them are capable of being removed, piecemeal, and set up again on a new diggings in the event of Gulgong declining in prosperity, and a rush taking place to another field within a day or two’s journey.”

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'John Osborne, painter and signwriter' 1872 (detail)

 

American & Australasian Photographic Company
John Osborne, painter and signwriter (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 4/No. 18372

 

 

A meeting between gold miner Bernard Otto Holtermann and photographer Beaufoy Merlin in Hill End in 1872 resulted in one of the most astonishing photographic documentations ever undertaken. Holtermann had been associated with the recent discovery of the world’s largest specimen of reef gold, weighing 145 kilograms, extracted from the Star of Hope mine at nearby Tambaroora. Merlin, an itinerant photographer, had just opened a temporary studio in Hill End. In January 1873, the two announced their plans for Holtermann’s great International Travelling Exposition, which would publicise the potential of their adopted country to the world through photography.
Merlin and his assistant Charles Bayliss had already photographed some of the gold producing towns of the colony and Holtermann’s patronage enabled them to continue the undertaking, using a larger camera.

Merlin had begun his photographic career in Victoria in 1866 and within a few years had developed a unique style of outdoor photography. Charles Bayliss joined American & Australasian Photographic Company in Melbourne and the pair headed north into New South Wales, photographing towns along the way. When Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss arrived in Sydney in September 1870, they had already completed an extraordinary documentation of “almost every house in Melbourne, and the other towns in Victoria.” They were aware that their venture was unusual and contemporary advertising by the American & Australasian Photographic Company reflects a considered understanding of the photographic medium and an intellectual approach to their work.

“The chief characteristic and distinguishing feature of the Company’s style of work, is the introduction of figures into the photograph – the most complete and life-like portraits of individuals who happen, or may choose to stand outside, being incorporated in the picture. The A&A Photographic Company desire further to remind the public that these negatives are not taken for the mere immediate object of sale, but that being registered, copies can at all times be had by or of those parties residing in any part of the colonies wherever the Company’s operations have extended, thus forming a novel means of social and commercial intercourse.”

Nevertheless, it is not surprising that Merlin and Bayliss headed west in 1872 with the new gold rushes. The cry “Rush-O!” meant money for businesses, including photographers. A studio for the A&A Photographic Company was built on land owned by Holtermann in Hill End and excursions were made to surrounding areas by horse drawn caravan. The photographic process of the day required the photographer coat each plate just before use and develop it immediately before it lost sensitivity. For the itinerant photographer, this meant taking a portable darkroom wherever he went. Despite the difficulty of the wet plate process, the comprehensive goldfields photography of Merlin and Bayliss has provided a unique documentation of frontier life.

Merlin fell ill and died from pneumonia in 1873, leaving his assistant the task of documenting towns for Holtermann’s Exposition. Consequently, Bayliss toured Victoria the following year, but returned to Sydney in 1875 and began making giant panoramas of the city from Holtermann’s house in North Sydney. The venture was to cost Holtermann over ₤4000, but resulted in the production of the world’s largest wet-plate negatives and several panoramas. One, measuring 10 metres long, astonished audiences overseas and received the Bronze award at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876 and a Silver Medal at the Paris Exposition Universelle Internationale in 1878. Only a small percentage of the A&A Photographic Company’s output has survived, but 3,500 small format wet plates negatives (including extensive coverage of the towns of Hill End and Gulgong) and the world’s largest wet plate negatives, measuring a massive 1 x 1.5 metres, are held by the Library.

Text from The Holtermann Collection website

 

Charles Bayliss. 'The beginning of Home Rule' 1872

 

Charles Bayliss (Australian, 1850-1897)
The beginning of Home Rule
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 3/No. 18278

 

 

Home Rule, 11 km south-east of Gulgong, was only two months old when Charles Bayliss took this photograph. A reporter from the Gulgong Guardian was also in town and wrote on 13 July 1872, “During the past fortnight there has been a great improvement for the better in the appearance of the township at the Home Rule. Large and costly buildings are springing up in every direction and being fitted up for almost every trade. In hotels there is a great change for the better, as in several of them notably Messrs Wright, Moss, and Oliver, the accommodation is almost equal to any on Gulgong; so visitors need not fear that they will suffer hunger or thirst.”

 

Charles Bayliss. 'Tent city, Home Rule' 1872

 

Charles Bayliss (Australian, 1850-1897)
Tent city, Home Rule
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 3/No. 18285

 

 

In the early days of gold rushes, miners usually lived in tents. Here tentmaker J. Booth has confidently set up his canvas shop in Home Rule. The burgeoning new field was described in the Sydney Morning Herald 22 May 1872, “On Friday last there must have been fully fifteen hundred persons upon the ground, and tents and habitations of every description were springing, apparently Iike mushrooms, from the ground, and such is the rapidity with which a gold-fields town is formed, I shall not be surprised to see the place well supplied with stores, and, of course, hotels, when I again visit the place about a fortnight hence.”

 

Charles Bayliss. 'John Davey, baker' 1872

 

Charles Bayliss (Australian, 1850-1897)
John Davey, baker
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 3/No. 18384

 

 

With his shoes covered in flour, John Davey steps outside his bakery in the main street of Canadian Lead. Bread cost 6d a 2lb [5 cents per 900g] loaf. The woman and children to the right also appear outside Ruth Beck’s North Star Hotel, three doors away. The rush to Canadian Lead began in early 1872 and the Maitland Mercury 6 April 1872 was able to state “the Canadian Lead, where a month ago some four hundred people were, can now boast of a couple of thousands…” Not everyone was law-abiding. The Maitland Mercury 24 August 1872 related the story of Mrs Beck dropping a purse containing £21 [$42, worth about $2000 today], which was picked up by her little boy, but taken from him by two men claiming that it was theirs. The miscreants were arrested in Mudgee two days later, drinking the profits.

 

Charles Bayliss. 'John Davey, baker' 1872 (detail)

 

Charles Bayliss (Australian, 1850-1897)
John Davey, baker (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 3/No. 18384

 

Beaufoy Merlin. 'Circular Quay from Dawes Battery' 1873

 

Beaufoy Merlin (Australian, 1830-1873)
Circular Quay from Dawes Battery
1873
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 58/No. 285

 

 

In mid 1873, Beaufoy Merlin returned to Sydney to continue photographing the city for Holtermann. The Sydney Morning Herald 2 August 1873 noted, “Mr. Beaufoy Merlin has taken a considerable number of photographic views of Sydney for the first section of ‘Holtermann’s Intercolonial Exposition’.” This image from Dawes Battery, past Campbell’s Wharf to Circular Quay can be dated to early September 1873, as the Haddon Hall (r) from London, is loading for San Francisco at Campbell’s wharf. Behind it is Aviemore and the ship in background in front of Customs House is La Hogue. Both Aviemore and La Hogue left for London on 13 September 1873.

 

Charles Bayliss [American & Australasian Photographic Company]. 'Pall Mall, Bendigo' 1874

 

Charles Bayliss (Australian, 1850-1897) [American & Australasian Photographic Company]
Pall Mall, Bendigo
1874
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 78/No. 2

 

 

After the death of Beaufoy Merlin in 1873, Bernhardt Holtermann engaged Merlin’s assistant, 24 year-old Charles Bayliss, to continue taking photographs for his planned Exposition. This view of Pall Mall from Hadley’s City Family Hotel, Sandhurst [Bendigo, Victoria] was taken in April 1874. Bayliss photographed the town using the Exposition’s standard 10 x 12 inch [25 x 30cm] glass negatives, but for this image used a mammoth camera specially imported by Holtermann which took glass plates measuring 18 x 22 inches [46 x 56cm]. Bayliss also photographed Ballarat in June 1874, using the mammoth camera to produce a panorama from the town hall clock tower.

 

 

State Library of New South Wales
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NSW 2000 Australia
Phone: +61 2 9273 1414

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Saturday – Sunday 10am – 5pm

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28
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop’ at The National Gallery of Art, Washington

Exhibition dates: 17th February – 5th May 2013

 

Unknown photographer (American). 'He Lost His Head' Nd

 

Unknown photographer (American)
He Lost His Head
Nd

 

 

Further images from this impressive exhibition devoted to the art of photographic manipulation before the advent of digital imagery from its second stop, at The National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the National Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Edward Steichen. 
'The Pond - Moonrise' 1904

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973)

The Pond – Moonrise
1904
Platinum print with applied colour
 image
39.7 x 48.2cm (15 5/8 x 19 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art/ Permission Estate of Edward Steichen. All rights reserved

 

 

Using a painstaking technique of multiple printing, Steichen achieved prints of such painterly seductiveness they have never been equaled. This view of a pond in the woods at Mamaroneck, New York is subtly coloured as Whistler’s Nocturnes, and like them, is a tone poem of twilight, in-distinction, and suggestiveness. Commenting on such pictures in 1910, Charles Caffin wrote in Camera Work: “It is in the penumbra, between the clear visibility of things and their total extinction into darkness, when the concreteness of appearances becomes merged in half-realised, half-baffled vision, that spirit seems to disengage itself from matter to envelop it with a mystery of soul-suggestion.”

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Henry Peach Robinson (British, 1830-1901) 'She Never Told Her Love' 1857

 

Henry Peach Robinson (British, 1830-1901)
She Never Told Her Love
1857
Albumen silver print from glass negative
18 x 23.2cm (7 1/16 x 9 1/8in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Jennifer and Joseph Duke Gift, 2005

 

 

Consumed by the passion of unrequited love, a young woman lies suspended in the dark space of her unrealised dreams in Henry Peach Robinson’s illustration of the Shakespearean verse “She never told her love, / But let concealment, like a worm i’ the bud, / Feed on her damask cheek” (Twelfth Night II,iv,111-13). Although this picture was exhibited by Robinson as a discrete work, it also served as a study for the central figure in his most famous photograph, Fading Away, of 1858.

Purportedly showing a young consumptive surrounded by family in her final moments, Fading Away was hotly debated for years. On the one hand, Robinson was criticised for the presumed indelicacy of having invaded the death chamber at the most private of moments. On the other, those who recognised the scene as having been staged and who understood that Robinson had created the picture through combination printing (a technique that utilised several negatives to create a single printed image) accused him of dishonestly using a medium whose chief virtue was its truthfulness.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Frederick Sommer. 'Max Ernst' 1946

 

Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
Max Ernst
1946
Gelatin silver print
19.2 x 23.97cm (7 9/16 x 9 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation

 

Wm. Notman & Son, Montreal, Eugène L'Africain, William Notman. 'Red Cap Snow Shoe Club, Halifax, Nova Scotia' c. 1888

 

Wm. Notman & Son, Montreal, Eugène L’Africain, William Notman
Red Cap Snow Shoe Club, Halifax, Nova Scotia
c. 1888
Collage of albumen prints with applied media
71.1 x 83.8cm (28 x 33 in.)
McCord Museum, Montreal

 

 

Notman established his first photography studio in Montreal in 1856 and relentlessly expanded his operations over the next two decades. At its peak, his company had twenty-four branches throughout Canada and New England, making it the most successful photographic enterprise in North America at the time. Notman specialised in composite portraits of large groups, including sporting clubs, trade associations, family gatherings, clergymen, and college graduates, some featuring more than four hundred figures. Each figure in a group was photographed separately in the studio then printed at the proper scale and pasted onto a painted background, as in this portrait of a Nova Scotia snowshoe club. The entire collage was then re-photographed. The final, relatively seamless tableau could then be printed and sold in a variety of sizes and formats.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

 

The National Gallery of Art presents the first major exhibition devoted to the art of photographic manipulation before the advent of digital imagery. Faking It: Manipulated Photography before Photoshop will be on view in the West Building’s Ground Floor galleries from February 17 through May 5, 2013, following its debut at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (from October 11, 2012, through January 27, 2013). In June it travels to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

“Following in its tradition of exhibiting and collecting the finest examples of photography, the Gallery is pleased to present some 200 photographs from the 1840s through the 1980s demonstrating the medium’s complicated relationship to truth in representation,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “We are grateful to the many lenders, both public and private, who have generously shared works from their collections – especially the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the largest lender and the organiser of this fascinating exhibition.”

 

The Exhibition

This is the first major exhibition devoted to the history of manipulated photography before the digital age. While the widespread use of Adobe® Photoshop® software has brought about an increased awareness of the degree to which photographs can be doctored, photographers – including such major artists as Gustave Le Gray, Edward Steichen, Weegee, and Richard Avedon – have been fabricating, modifying, and otherwise manipulating camera images since the medium was first invented. This exhibition demonstrates that today’s digitally manipulated images are part of a continuum that extends back to photography’s first decades. Through visually captivating pictures created in the service of art, politics, news, entertainment, and commerce, Faking It not only traces the medium’s complex and changing relationship to visual truth, but also significantly revises our understanding of photographic history.

Organised thematically, the exhibition begins with some of the earliest instances of photographic manipulation – those attempting to compensate for the new medium’s technical limitations. In the 19th century, many photographers hand tinted portraits to make them appear more vivid and lifelike. Others composed large group portraits by photographing individuals separately in the studio and creating a collage by pasting them onto painted backgrounds depicting outdoor scenes. As the art and craft of photography grew increasingly sophisticated, photographers devised a staggering array of techniques with which to manipulate their images, including combination printing, photomontage, overpainting, ink and airbrush retouching, sandwiched negatives, multiple exposures, and other darkroom magic.

The exhibition presents a superb selection of manually altered photographs created under the mantle of art, including 19th-century genre scenes composed of multiple negatives, stunning Pictorialist landscapes from the turn of the 19th century, and the pre-digital dreamscapes of surrealist photographers in the 1920s and 1930s. A section of doctored images made for political or ideological ends includes faked composite photographs of the 1871 Paris Commune massacres, anti-Nazi photomontages by John Heartfield, and falsified images from Stalin-era Soviet Russia. The show also explores popular uses of photographic manipulation such as spirit photography, tall-tale and fantasy postcards, advertising and fashion spreads, and doctored news images.

The final section features the work of contemporary artists – including Duane Michals, Jerry Uelsmann, and Yves Klein – who have reclaimed earlier techniques of image manipulation to creatively question photography’s presumed objectivity. By tracing the history of photographic manipulation from the 1840s to the present, Faking It vividly demonstrates that photography is – and always has been – a medium of fabricated truths and artful lies.

Press release from the National Gallery of Art website

 

Arthur Felig - Weegee (American, born Hungary, 1899-1968) 'Times Square, New York' 1952-59

 

Arthur Felig – Weegee (American, born Hungary, 1899-1968)
Times Square, New York
1952-59
Gelatin silver print
20.3 x 17.8cm (8 x 7 in.)
© International Center of Photography, Bequest of Wilma Wilcox, 1993

 

 

Famous for his gritty tabloid crime photographs, Weegee devoted the last twenty years of his life to what he called his “creative work.” He experimented prolifically with distorting lenses and comparable darkroom techniques, producing photo caricatures of politicians and Hollywood celebrities, novel variations on the man-in-the-bottle motif, and uncanny doublings and reflections, such as this striking image, which he described as “Times Square under 10 feet of water on a sunny afternoon.”

 

Kathy Grove (American, b. 1948) 'The Other Series (After Kertész)' 1989-90

 

Kathy Grove (American, born 1948)
The Other Series (After Kertész)
1989-90
Gelatin silver print
19.7 x 15.2cm (7 3/4 x 6 in.)
Purchase, Charina Foundation Inc. Gift, 2010
© Kathy Grove

 

 

In the late 1980s Grove, an artist who supports herself as a professional photo retoucher, began seamlessly altering images of famous works of art, using bleach, dyes, and airbrush to remove the female figure from each image and leaving the rest of the scene intact. Her cunning excisions mimic the process by which art historians, echoing the culture at large, have erased the achievements of actual women while enshrining Woman as a blank screen upon which the ideas and desires of both artist and viewer are projected. If photographs are presumed to represent the truth, Grove’s pictures remind us to ask: Whose truth?

 

Unknown, American. '[Decapitated Man with Head on a Platter]' c. 1865

 

Unknown (American)
[Decapitated Man with Head on a Platter]
c.1865
Tintype with applied color
8.4 x 6cm (3 5/16 x 2 3/8 in.)
© International Center of Photography, Gift of Steven Kasher and Susan Spungen Kasher, 2008

 

Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916) 'Cape Horn, Columbia River, Oregon' 1867

 

Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916)
Cape Horn, Columbia River, Oregon
1867, printed 1880-1890
Albumen silver print from glass negatives
52.3 x 40.4cm (20 9/16 x 15 7/8 in.)
© George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester

 

 

Watkins, the consummate photographer of the American West, combined a virtuoso mastery of the difficult wet plate negative process with a rigorous sense of pictorial structure. For large-format landscape work such as Watkins produced along the Columbia River in Oregon, the physical demands were great. Since there was as yet no practical means of enlarging, Watkins’s glass negatives had to be as large as he wished the prints to be, and his camera large enough to accommodate them. Furthermore, the glass negatives had to be coated, exposed, and developed while the collodion remained tacky, requiring the photographer to transport a traveling darkroom as he explored the rugged virgin terrain of the American West. The crystalline clarity of Watkins’s remarkable “mammoth” prints is unmatched in the work of any of his contemporaries and is approached by few artists working today. (Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website). Here the clouds have been printed in (compare to the work on the Metropolitan Museum of Art website)

 

Dora Maar (French, 1907-1997) 'The Simulator' 1936

 

Dora Maar (French 1907-1997)
Le simulateur
1936
Gelatin silver print
29.2 x 22.9cm (11 1/2 x 9 in.)
Collection of The Sack Photographic Trust for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Maar’s haunting photomontages of the mid-1930s evoke a mood of oneiric ambiguity. Here, the world is turned literally upside-down: a boy bends sharply backward, echoing the curve of the vaulted ceiling on which he stands. On the print, Maar scratched out the figure’s eyes, exploiting Surrealism’s strong association of blindness with inner sight.

 

Albert Sands Southworth, Josiah Johnson Hawes. 'Seated man with Brattle Street Church seen through window' 1850s

 

Albert Sands Southworth, Josiah Johnson Hawes
Seated man with Brattle Street Church seen through window
1850s
Daguerreotype
21.6 x 16.5cm (8 1/2 x 6 1/2 in.)
The Isenburg Collection at AMC Toronto

 

J.C. Higgins and Son. 'Man in bottle' c. 1888

 

J.C. Higgins and Son
Man in bottle
c. 1888
Albumen print
13.5 x 10cm (5 5/16 x 3 15/16 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Susan and Thomas Dunn Gift, 2011

 

Jerry N. Uelsmann. 'Untitled' 1976

 

Jerry N. Uelsmann (American, b. 1934)
Untitled
1976
Gelatin silver print
49.3 x 36cm (19 7/16 x 14 3/16 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, David Hunter McAlpin Fund, 1981
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art/ © Jerry N. Uelsmann

 

Unknown Photographer, German. 'Ein kräftiger Zusammenstoss (A Powerfull Collision)' 1914

 

Unknown Photographer (German)
Ein kräftiger Zusammenstoss (A Powerfull Collision)
1914
Gelatin silver print
8.7 x 13.7cm (3 7/16 x 5 3/8 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2010

 

 

National Gallery of Art
National Mall between 3rd and 7th Streets
Constitution Avenue NW, Washington

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday 10.00am – 5.00pm
Sunday 11.00am – 6.00pm

National Gallery of Art website

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25
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘Roman Vishniac Rediscovered’ at the International Center of Photography (ICP), New York

Exhibition dates: 18th January – 5th May 2013

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Herring for the traditional third meal of Shabbath, Mukachevo' 1937-38

 

Roman Vishniac (Russian-American, 1897-1990)
Herring for the traditional third meal of Shabbath, Mukachevo
1937-38
Gelatin silver print
10 1/2 x 13 3/8 inches

 

 

“By repositioning Vishniac’s iconic photographs of Eastern Europe within the broader tradition of social documentary photography, and introducing recently discovered and radically diverse bodies of work, this exhibition stakes Vishniac’s claim as a modern master.”

.
ICP Adjunct Curator Maya Benton

 

 

Rediscovered! Rediscovered? Surely, such a splendid artist as Vishniac has never been away…

Revealing “a compositional acuity, inventiveness, and surprising stylistic range” – in other words traces of Josef Sudek, Walker Evans, Rodchenko and New Photography – Vishniac’s best work is a record of its troubled time: a photographic record of Jewish life in Eastern Europe between the two World Wars. What the viewing public must be made aware of is the curatorial reinterpretation of his work, seeking as it does to solidify his place “among the 20th century’s most accomplished photographers.”

While some of the work on view may be new, the claims of curator Maya Benton (above) must be observed with a good deal of scepticism. What we need to understand is how his photographs are being interpreted across a range of frames of reference – from photojournalism, to social documentary photography and art – in order, as Maya Benton says, to “reposition” his iconic photographs within the broader tradition of social documentary photography. This repositioning is a form of re/visioning of an artist’s work to place it in a different context or frame of reference in order to increase its significance; or, by exclusion (as in the case of the S/M photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe that have been occluded by the Mapplethorpe Foundation), another context, make the work of an artist more socially palatable than would otherwise be the case.

The interpretation of Vishniac’s photographs becomes problematic depending on what frame of reference one applies to them and how their interpretation is negotiated between multiple, fluid points of view. Repositioning an artist’s work within a broader context changes the nature of the interpretation of that artist’s work and raises the pertinent question: who is repositioning this work and for what reason(s); who is pushing that agenda and curatorial barrow (in Benton’s case it is because she wants Vishniac’s work to be seen as that of a modern master, to make the credibility of the exhibition and the artist more than it possibly is). What we must be fully aware of is the time and place in which Vishniac made the work and the conditions for its initial reception, not some stake in the ground claim of modern mastership.

Vishniac’s photographs frame the historical discourse of the end of Jewish culture in Eastern Europe and the rise of Fascism in Germany with erudition – for the past, present and future. Any other claims to eclecticism, applying different “repositioning” in particular cases, seems inelegant and shows a lack of consistency in clear thinking. When you really look at his work there is a sensitivity to the human condition in his work that is outstanding, coupled with a clear compositional structure and use of chiaroscuro. He was an excellent visual artist who had strong previsualisation that is evidenced in the prints. These photographs make insightful comment on the surrounding culture at the time of their production. Nothing more grandiose need be said.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the ICP for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for another version of the image.

 

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Untitled [Jewish schoolchildren, Mukacevo]' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (Russian-American, 1897-1990)
Untitled [Jewish schoolchildren, Mukacevo]
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Untitled [Boy with kindling in basement dwelling, Krochmalna Street, Warsaw]' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (Russian-American, 1897-1990)
Untitled [Boy with kindling in basement dwelling, Krochmalna Street, Warsaw]
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Cross section of a pine needle' date unknown

 

Roman Vishniac (Russian-American, 1897-1990)
Cross section of a pine needle
Date unknown
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Untitled [Interior of the Anhalter Bahnhof, a railway terminus near Potsdamer Platz, Berlin]' late 1920s - early 1930s

 

Roman Vishniac (Russian-American, 1897-1990)
Untitled [Interior of the Anhalter Bahnhof, a railway terminus near Potsdamer Platz, Berlin]
Late 1920s – early 1930s
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

Roman Vishniac Rediscovered, on view at the International Center of Photography (1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street) January 18 – May 5, 2013, brings together four decades of work by a remarkably versatile and innovative photographer. The exhibition includes recently discovered vintage prints, moving film footage, personal correspondence, and exhibition prints made from Vishniac’s recently digitised negatives. His complex and visionary work, much of which is shown here for the first time, reveals a compositional acuity, inventiveness, and surprising stylistic range that solidifies his place among the 20th century’s most accomplished photographers.

Vishniac created the most widely recognised and reproduced photographic record of Jewish life in Eastern Europe between the two World Wars. Yet only a fraction of his work was published during his lifetime, most notably in A Vanished World (1983). Over the course of his career, Vishniac witnessed the sweeping artistic and photographic innovation of Weimar Berlin, the ominous rise to Nazi power in Germany, the final years of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, and immigrant life in America during and after the war.

“By repositioning Vishniac’s iconic photographs of Eastern Europe within the broader tradition of social documentary photography, and introducing recently discovered and radically diverse bodies of work, this exhibition stakes Vishniac’s claim as a modern master,” said ICP Adjunct Curator Maya Benton, who organised the exhibition.

Born in 1897 to a wealthy Russian-Jewish family, Vishniac immigrated to Berlin in 1920 in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. As an amateur photographer, he took to the streets with his camera throughout the 1920s and ’30s, offering astute, often humorous visual commentary on his adopted city and experimented with new and modern approaches to framing and composition. Documenting the rise of Nazi power, he focused his lens on the signs of oppression and doom that soon formed the backdrop of his Berlin street photography. From 1935 to 1938, while living in Berlin and working as a biologist and science photographer, he was commissioned by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), then the world’s largest Jewish relief organisation, to photograph impoverished Jewish communities in Central and Eastern Europe. On New Year’s Day, 1941, he arrived in New York and soon opened a portrait studio. At the same time, he began documenting American Jewish communal and immigrant life and established himself as a pioneer in the field of photomicroscopy. In 1947, Vishniac returned to Europe and documented Jewish displaced persons camps and the ruins of Berlin. During this time, he also recorded the efforts of Holocaust survivors to rebuild their lives, and the work of the JDC and other Jewish relief organisations in providing them with aid and emigration assistance.

Roman Vishniac Rediscovered is a comprehensive reappraisal of Vishniac’s total photographic output, from the early years in Berlin through the postwar period. The exhibition also includes a slideshow of 100 colour science transparencies – digitised for the first time – of Vishniac’s microphotoscopy, taken from the early 1950s to the late 1970s. In addition to the exhibition, a primary task of the archive is to make this work available for research, in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Press release from the ICP website

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Untitled [Street scene with swastika flag in background, Berlin]' c. 1935-36

 

Roman Vishniac (Russian-American, 1897-1990)
Untitled [Street scene with swastika flag in background, Berlin]
c. 1935-36
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Untitled [Nazi Storm Troopers marching next to the Arsenal in front of the Berlin Cathedral]' c. 1935

 

Roman Vishniac (Russian-American, 1897-1990)
Untitled [Nazi Storm Troopers marching next to the Arsenal in front of the Berlin Cathedral]
c. 1935
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Untitled [Beach dwellers in the afternoon, Nice, France]' c. 1939

 

Roman Vishniac (Russian-American, 1897-1990)
Untitled [Beach dwellers in the afternoon, Nice, France]
c. 1939
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. 'People behind bars, Berlin Zoo' early 1930s

 

Roman Vishniac (Russian-American, 1897-1990)
People behind bars, Berlin Zoo
early 1930s
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac, 'Untitled [Zionist youth building a school and foundry while learning construction techniques, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]' 1939

 

Roman Vishniac (Russian-American, 1897-1990)
Untitled [Zionist youth building a school and foundry while learning construction techniques, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]
1939
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Recalcitrance' Berlin, 1926

 

Roman Vishniac (Russian-American, 1897-1990)
Recalcitrance
Berlin, 1926
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

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Phone: 212 857 0045

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21
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘The Shaping of New Visions: Photography, Film, Photobook’ at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 18th April 2012 – 29th April 2013

 

Josef Albers. 'Marli Heimann, Alle während 1 Stunde (Marli Heimann, All During an Hour)' 1931

 

Josef Albers
Marli Heimann, Alle während 1 Stunde (Marli Heimann, All During an Hour)
1931
Twelve gelatin silver prints
Overall 11 11/16 x 16 7/16″ (29.7 x 41.8cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of The Josef Albers Foundation, Inc.
© 2012 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

Another fascinating exhibition and a bumper posting to boot (pardon the pun!)

A panoply of famous photographers along with a few I had never heard of before (such as Georges Hugnet) are represented in this posting. As the press blurb states, through “key photographic projects, experimental films, and photobooks, The Shaping of New Visions offers a critical reassessment of photography’s role in the avant-garde and neo-avant-garde movements, and in the development of contemporary artistic practices.”

The large exhibition seems to have a finger in every pie, wandering from the birth of the 20th-century modern metropolis, through “New Vision” photography in the 1920s, experimental film, Surrealism, Constructivism and New Objectivity, Dada, Rayographs, photographic avant-gardism, photocollages, photomontages, street photography of the  1960s, colour slide projection performance, through New Topographics, self-published books, and conceptual photography, featuring works that reevaluate the material and contextual definitions of photography. “The final gallery showcases major installations by a younger generation of artists whose works address photography’s role in the construction of contemporary history.”

Without actually going to New York to see the exhibition (I wish!!) – from a distance it does seem a lot of ground to cover within 5 galleries even if there are 250 works. You could say this is a “meta” exhibition, drawing together themes and experiments from different areas of photography with rather a long bow. Have a look at the The Shaping of New Visions exhibition checklist to see the full listing of what’s on show and you be the judge. There are some rare and beautiful images that’s for sure. From the photographs in this posting I would have to say the distorted “eyes” have it…

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to MoMA for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Ein Lichtspiel: schwarz weiss grau (A Lightplay: Black White Gray) (excerpt)
1930

 

 

This short film made by László Moholy-Nagy is based on the shadow patterns created by his Light-Space Modulator, an early kinetic sculpture consisting of a variety of curved objects in a carefully choreographed cycle of movements. Created in 1930, the film was originally planned as the sixth and final part of a much longer work depicting the new space-time.

 

 

Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler
Manhatta
1921
Film
Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York
© Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

 

 

In 1920 Paul Strand and artist Charles Sheeler collaborated on Manhatta, a short silent film that presents a day in the life of lower Manhattan. Inspired by Walt Whitman’s book Leaves of Grass, the film includes multiple segments that express the character of New York. The sequences display a similar approach to the still photography of both artists. Attracted by the cityscape and its visual design, Strand and Sheeler favored extreme camera angles to capture New York’s dynamic qualities. Although influenced by Romanticism in its view of the urban environment, Manhatta is considered the first American avant-garde film.

 

 

Dziga Vertov (Russian, 1896-1954)
Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera)
1929
Film
1 hr 6 mins 49 secs

 

 

Excerpt from a camera operators diary
ATTENTION VIEWERS:
This film is an experiment in cinematic communication of real events
Without the help of Intertitles
Without the help of a story
Without the help of theatre
This experimental work aims at creating a truly international language of cinema based on its absolute separation from the language of theatre and literature

 

Eleanor Antin. '100 Boots' 1971-1973

Eleanor Antin. '100 Boots' 1971-1973

Eleanor Antin. '100 Boots' 1971-1973

 

Eleanor Antin (American, b. 1935)
100 Boots
1971-1973
Photographed by Philip Steinmetz
Halftone reproductions on 51 cards
4 ½ x 7 in. each
Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York
© Eleanor Antin

 

August Sander. 'Das rechte Auge meiner Tochter Sigrid (The Right Eye of My Daughter Sigrid)' 1928

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Das rechte Auge meiner Tochter Sigrid (The Right Eye of My Daughter Sigrid)
1928
Gelatin silver print
7 1/16 x 9″ (17.9 x 22.9cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer
© 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Dziga Vertov. 'Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera)' (still) 1929

 

Dziga Vertov (Russian, 1896-1954)
Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera) (still)
1929
35mm film
65 min ( black and white, silent)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Department of Film

 

Man Ray. 'Rayograph' 1922

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Rayograph
1922
Gelatin silver print (photogram)
9 3/8 x 11 3/4″ (23.9 x 29.9cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of James Thrall Soby
© 2012 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

 

William Klein (American, born 1928) 'Gun, Gun, Gun, New York' 1955

 

William Klein (American, b. 1928)
Gun, Gun, Gun, New York 
1955
Gelatin silver print
10 1/4 x 13 5/8″ (26 x 34.6 cm)
Gift of Arthur and Marilyn Penn

 

Georges Hugnet (French, 1906-1974) 'Untitled [Surrealist beach collage]' c. 1935

 

Georges Hugnet (French, 1906-1974)
Untitled [Surrealist beach collage]
c. 1935
Collage of photogravure, lithograph, chromolithograph and gelatin silver prints on gelatin silver print
11 7/8 x 9 7/16″ (30.2 x 24cm)
Gift of Timothy Baum in memory of Harry H. Lunn, Jr.

 

Martha Rosler. 'Red Stripe Kitchen' 1967-1972

 

Martha Rosler (American, b. 1943)
Red Stripe Kitchen
1967-1972
From the series Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful 
Pigmented inkjet print, printed 2011
23 3/4 x 18 1/8″ (60.3 x 46cm)
Purchase and The Modern Women’s Fund

 

 

The Museum of Modern Art draws from its collection to present the exhibition The Shaping of New Visions: Photography, Film, Photobook on view from April 18, 2012, to April 29, 2013. Filling the third-floor Edward Steichen Photography Galleries, this installation presents more than 250 works by approximately 90 artists, with a focus on new acquisitions and groundbreaking projects by Man Ray, László Moholy-Nagy, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Germaine Krull, Dziga Vertov, Gerhard Rühm, Helen Levitt, Robert Frank, Daido Moriyama, Robert Heinecken, Edward Ruscha, Martha Rosler, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Paul Graham, and The Atlas Group / Walid Raad. The exhibition is organised by Roxana Marcoci, Curator, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art.

Punctuated by key photographic projects, experimental films, and photobooks, The Shaping of New Visions offers a critical reassessment of photography’s role in the avant-garde and neo-avant-garde movements, and in the development of contemporary artistic practices. The shaping of what came to be known as “new vision” photography in the 1920s bore the obvious influence of “lens-based” and “time-based” works. The first gallery begins with photographs capturing the birth of the 20th-century modern metropolis by Berenice Abbott, Edward Steichen, and Alfred Stieglitz, presented next to the avant-garde film Manhatta (1921), a collaboration between Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler.

The 1920s were a period of landmark constructions and scientific discoveries all related to light – from Thomas Edison’s development of incandescent light to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and light speed. Man Ray began experimenting with photograms (pictures made by exposing objects placed on photosensitive paper to light) – which he renamed “rayographs” after himself – in which light was both the subject and medium of his work. This exhibition presents Man Ray’s most exquisite rayographs, alongside his first short experimental film, Le Retour à la raison (Return to Reason, 1923), in which he extended the technique to moving images.

In 1925, two years after he joined the faculty of the Bauhaus school in Weimar Germany, László Moholy-Nagy published his influential book Malerei, Fotografie, Film (Painting, Photography, Film) – part of a series that he coedited with Bauhaus director Walter Gropius – in which he asserted that photography and cinema are heralding a “culture of light” that has overtaken the most innovative aspects of painting. Moholy-Nagy extolled photography and, by extension, film as the quintessential medium of the future. Moholy-Nagy’s interest in the movement of objects and light through space led him to construct Light-Space Modulator, the subject of his only abstract film, Ein Lichtspiel: schwarz weiss grau (A Lightplay: Black White Gray, 1930), which is presented in the exhibition next to his own photographs and those of Florence Henri.

The rise of photographic avant-gardism from the 1920s to the 1940s is traced in the second gallery primarily through the work of European artists. A section on Constructivism and New Objectivity features works by Paul Citroën, Raoul Hausmann, Florence Henri, Germaine Krull, El Lissitzky, Albert Renger-Patzsch, and August Sander. A special focus on Aleksandr Rodchenko underscores his engagement with the illustrated press through collaborations with Vladimir Mayakovsky and Sergei Tretyakov on the covers and layouts of Novyi LEF, the Soviet avant-garde journal of the “Left Front of the Arts,” which popularised the idea of “factography,” or the manufacture of innovative aesthetic facts through photomechanical processes. Alongside Rodchenko, film director Dziga Vertov redefined the medium of still and motion-picture photography with the concept of kino-glaz (cine-eye), according to which the perfectible lens of the camera led to the creation of a novel perception of the world. The exhibition features the final clip of Vertov’s 1929 experimental film Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera), in which the eye is superimposed on the camera lens to form an indivisible apparatus fit to view, process, and convey reality, all at once. This gallery also features a selection of Dada and Surrealist works, including rarely seen photographs, photocollages, and photomontages by Hans Bellmer, Claude Cahun, George Hugnet, André Kertész, Jan Lukas, and Grete Stern, alongside such avant-garde publications as Documents and Littérature.

The third gallery features artists exploring the social world of the postwar period. On view for the first time is a group of erotic and political typo-collages by Gerhard Rühm, a founder of the Wiener Gruppe (1959-60), an informal group of Vienna-based writers and artists who engaged in radical visual dialogues between pictures and texts. The rebels of street photography – Robert Frank, William Klein, Daido Moriyama, and Garry Winogrand – are represented with a selection of works that refute the then prevailing rules of photography, offering instead elliptical, off-kilter styles that are as personal and controversial as are their unsparing views of postwar society. A highlight of this section is the pioneering slide show Projects: Helen Levitt in Color (1971-74). Capturing the lively beat, humour, and drama of New York’s street theatre, Levitt’s slide projection is shown for the first time at MoMA since its original presentation at the Museum in 1974.

Photography’s tradition in the postwar period continues in the fourth gallery, which is divided into two sections. One section features “new topographic” works by Robert Adams, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Stephen Shore, and Joel Sternfeld, along with a selection of Edward Ruscha’s self-published books, in which the use of photography as mapmaking signals a conceptual thrust. This section introduces notable works from the 1970s by artists who embraced photography not just as a way of describing experience, but as a conceptual tool. Examples include Eleanor Antin’s 100 Boots (1971-73), Mel Bochner’s Misunderstandings (A theory of photography) (1970), VALIE EXPORT’s Einkreisung (Encirclement) (1976), On Kawara’s I Got Up… (1977), and Gordon Matta-Clark’s Splitting (1974), all works that reevaluate the material and contextual definitions of photography. The other section features two major and highly experimental recent acquisitions: Martha Rosler’s political magnum opus Bringing the War Home (1967-72), developed in the context of her anti-war and feminist activism, for which the artist spliced together images of domestic bliss clipped from the pages of House Beautiful with grim pictures of the war in Vietnam taken from Life magazine; and Sigmar Polke’s early 1970s experiments with multiple exposures, reversed tonal values, and under-and-over exposures, which underscore the artist’s idea that “a negative is never finished.” The unmistakably cinematic turn that photography takes in the 1980s and early 1990s is represented with a selection of innovative works ranging from Robert Heinecken’s Recto/Verso (1988) to Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s breakthrough Hustler series (1990-92).

The final gallery showcases major installations by a younger generation of artists whose works address photography’s role in the construction of contemporary history. Tapping into forms of archival reconstitution, The Atlas Group / Walid Raad is represented with My Neck Is Thinner Than a Hair: Engines (1996-2004), an installation of 100 pictures of car-bomb blasts in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990) that provokes questions about the factual nature of existing records, the traces of war, and the symptoms of trauma. A selection from Harrell Fletcher’s The American War (2005) brings together bootlegged photojournalistic pictures of the U.S. military involvement in Southeast Asia, throwing into sharp focus photography’s role as a documentary and propagandistic medium in the shaping of historical memory. Jules Spinatsch’s Panorama: World Economic Forum, Davos (2003), made of thousands of still images and three surveillance video works, chronicles the preparations for the 2003 World Economic Forum, when the entire Davos valley was temporarily transformed into a high security zone. A selection of Paul Graham’s photographs from his major photobook project a shimmer of possibility (2007), consisting of filmic haikus about everyday life in today’s America, concludes the exhibition.

Press release from the MOMA website

 

On Kawara. 'I Got Up At...' 1974-75

 

On Kawara (Japanese, 1932-2014)
I Got Up At…
1974-75
(Ninety postcards with printed rubber stamps)

 

 

The semi autobiographical I Got Up At… by On Kawara is a series of postcards sent to John Baldessari. Each card was sent from his location that morning detailing the time he got up. The time marked on each card varies drastically from day to day, the time stamped on each card is the time he left his bed as opposed to actually waking up. Kawara’s work often acts to document his existence in time, giving a material form to which is formally immaterial. The series has been repeated frequently sending the cards to a variety of friends and colleagues.

 

Philip-Lorca diCorcia. 'Marilyn; 28 Years Old; Las Vegas, Nevada; $30' 1990-92

 

Philip-Lorca diCorcia (American, b. 1951)
Marilyn; 28 Years Old; Las Vegas, Nevada; $30
1990-92
Chromogenic colour print
24 x 35 15/16″ (61 x 91.4cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. E.T. Harmax Foundation Fund
© 2012 Philip-Lorca diCorcia, courtesy David Zwirner, New York

 

Helen Levitt. 'Projects: Helen Levitt in Color' 1971-74 (detail)

Helen Levitt. 'Projects: Helen Levitt in Color' 1971-74 (detail)

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
Projects: Helen Levitt in Color (detail)
1971-74
40 colour slides shown in continuous projection
Originally presented at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, September 26-October 20, 1974

 

Atlas Group, Walid Raad. 'My Neck is Thinner Than a Hair: Engines' 1996-2004 (detail)

 

Atlas Group, Walid Raad
My Neck is Thinner Than a Hair: Engines (detail)
1996-2004
100 pigmented inkjet prints
9 7/16 x 13 3/8″ (24 x 34cm) each
Fund for the Twenty-First Century

 

Daido Moriyama. 'Entertainer on Stage, Shimizu' 1967

 

Daido Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938)
Entertainer on Stage, Shimizu
1967
Gelatin silver print
18 7/8 x 28″ (48.0 x 71.2cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer
© 2012 Daido Moriyama

 

VALIE EXPORT. 'Einkreisung (Encirclement)' 1976

 

VALIE EXPORT (Austrian, b. 1940)
Einkreisung (Encirclement)
1976
From the series Körperkonfigurationen (Body Configurations)
Gelatin silver print with red ink
14 x 23 7/16″ (35.5 x 59.6cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Carl Jacobs Fund
© 2012 VALIE EXPORT / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VBK, Austria

 

Grete Stern. No. 1 from the series Sueños (Dreams) 1949

 

Grete Stern (German-Argentinian, 1904-1999)
No. 1 from the series Sueños (Dreams)
1949
Gelatin silver print
10 1/2 x 9″ (26.6 x 22.9cm)
Latin American and Caribbean Fund through gift of Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis in honor of Adriana Cisneros de Griffin
© 2012 Horacio Coppola

 

Sigmar Polke. 'Untitled (Mariette Althaus)' c. 1975

 

Sigmar Polke (German, 1941-2010)
Untitled (Mariette Althaus)
c. 1975
Gelatin silver print (red toned)
9 1/4 x 11 13/16″ (23.5 x 30cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of Edgar Wachenheim III and Ronald S. Lauder
© 2012 Estate of Sigmar Polke / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Germany

 

Martha Rosler. 'Hands Up / Makeup' 1967-1972

 

Martha Rosler (American, b. 1943)
Hands Up / Makeup
1967-1972
From the series Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful
Pigmented inkjet print, printed 2011
23 3/4 x 13 15/16″ (60.4 x 35.4cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase and The Modern Women’s Fund
© 2012 Martha Rosler

 

Robert Heinecken. 'Recto/Verso #2' 1988

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Recto/Verso #2
1988
Silver dye bleach print
8 5/8 x 7 7/8″ (21.9 x 20cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mr. and Mrs. Clark Winter Fund
© 2012 The Robert Heinecken Trust

 

Berenice Abbott. 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman' Negative c. 1930/Distortion c. 1950

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman
Negative c. 1930/Distortion c. 1950
Gelatin silver print, 12 3/4 x 10 1/8″ (32.6 x 25.7cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Frances Keech Fund in honor of Monroe Wheeler
© 2012 Berenice Abbott/Commerce Graphics

 

Raoul Hausmann. 'Untitled' February 1931

 

Raoul Hausmann (Austrian, 1886-1971)
Untitled
February 1931
Gelatin silver print
5 3/8 x 4 7/16″ (13.6 x 11.2cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther
© 2012 Raoul Hausmann / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

 

Claude Cahun. 'Untitled' c. 1928

 

Claude Cahun (French, 1894-1954)
Untitled
c. 1928
Gelatin silver print
4 9/16 x 3 1/2″ (10 x 7.6cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase and anonymous promised gift
© 2012 Estate of Claude Cahun

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Sovetskoe foto (Soviet Photo)' No. 10 October 1927

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Sovetskoe foto (Soviet Photo) No. 10
October 1927
Letterpress
10 3/8 x 7 1/4″ (26.3 x 18.4 cm)
Publisher: Ogonek, Moscow
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the Judith Rothschild Foundation

 

 

The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019
Phone: (212) 708-9400

Opening hours:
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18
Apr
13

Review: ‘Aliza Levi / Books on a White Background’ at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 10th April – 4th May 2013

 

Aliza Levi. 'Across Australia' 2011

 

Aliza Levi
Across Australia
2011
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

 

Aura of white

Shadow of black

Books for the boys *

Black bodies out the back

 

 

* Books for the bourgeois

* Books for the parlour

* Books for the burning

* Books to hide memories

* Books lost in archives

* Books still in libraries

* Books for the tower (implying Babel)

* Books for the scrapheap

* Books for academics

* Books for the garbo

* Books for the church stall

* Books to forget

 

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Edmund Pearce Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Aliza Levi. 'Australia, its History and Present Condition' 2013

 

Aliza Levi
Australia, its History and Present Condition
2013
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

Aliza Levi. 'Australia the Land of Promise' 2012

 

Aliza Levi
Australia the Land of Promise
2012
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

Aliza Levi. 'Black But Comely' 2013

 

Aliza Levi
Black But Comely
2013
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

Aliza Levi. 'Malthus on Population' 2012

 

Aliza Levi
Malthus on Population
2012
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

 

“I began this series by choosing books that reflected the assumptions and behaviour of the nineteenth century colonists, the persistent notations of self and other. I soon started to notice, that many of the titles were pertinent to today. A blurring of time and relevance, where views from a hundred years ago were intersecting with current attitudes and events.”

.
Aliza Levi

 

 

South African born artist, Aliza Levi premiers her latest body of work Books on a White Background at Edmund Pearce Gallery. Camera and lights in hand, Aliza has been photographing nineteenth century books in small town junk shops, second-hand book dealers, flea markets, rare book collections and libraries both here and in her native South Africa. Books authored by anthropologists, ethnologists and laypersons who took it upon themselves to comment on their travels. To date she has captured nearly 250 books.

The books, were initially chosen to reflect the ideologies and assumptions of the nineteenth century West. However, Aliza soon realised, that some of the titles were pertinent to today. A blurring of time and relevance where titles from a hundred years ago were intersecting with current attitudes and events. For example, the book Strangers May be Present, in its evocation of colonial settlers viewing the other as stranger also evoked for her the more recent, disturbing events in which the other is articulated: xenophobic attacks and corrective rapes in South Africa. Closer to home, the century old book entitled Australia, the Land of Promise immediately raises questions around certain stark realities such as refugee detention centres.

Kate Warren writes in the accompanying exhibition essay: “The precise regularity of her photographic compositions create a compelling visual plane that immediately draws the viewer’s attention. But look closer. In the situation that Levi presents us with, the seductive nature of the visual cannot escape the immediacy of language. The force of their titles – often starkly confronting and potentially upsetting – leaves the embossing, decoration and materiality of the books themselves as an ironic supplement.”

Born in 1969 in South Africa, Aliza Levi’s practice is multidisciplinary in form yet single-minded in concept. Much of her work presents a relationship to land, consciousness and memory brought on by her South African and Australian citizenship. Having recently presented her work in the UK, this is her first solo show in Melbourne, where she has been producing art as well as facilitating women’s art groups with refugees from Sudan. Levi is currently completing a Masters Degree in Fine Art at Monash University.

Press release from the Edmund Pearce Gallery website

 

Aliza Levi. 'Ourselves Writ Strange' 2011

 

Aliza Levi
Ourselves Writ Strange
2011
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

Aliza Levi. 'Scenes and Sports of Savage Lands' 2012

 

Aliza Levi
Scenes and Sports of Savage Lands
2012
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

Aliza Levi. 'Strangers May Be Present' 2010

 

Aliza Levi
Strangers May Be Present
2010
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

Aliza Levi. 'The Art of Living in Australia' 2012

 

Aliza Levi
The Art of Living in Australia
2012
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42 cm

 

 

Textual thresholds: The uncomfortable nature of titles in Books on a White Background

by Kate Warren

Aliza Levi’s research-based photographic project, Books on a White Background (2012), confronts the viewer with an array that is at once visually compelling and profoundly difficult to look at. The precise regularity of her photographic compositions, the ‘grid-like’ repetition of these images’ installation, the consistent form and shape of her subject matter, and the contrast between the stark white background and the darker shadows thrown, all create a compelling visual plane that immediately draws the viewer’s attention. But look closer. In the situation that Levi presents us with, the seductive nature of the visual cannot escape the immediacy of language. The force of their titles – often starkly confronting and potentially upsetting – leaves the embossing, decoration and materiality of the books themselves as an ironic supplement.

This is not a ‘library’. Although developed from Levi’s archival research, the final photographic project is not an ‘archive’. Rather than displaying the original books themselves as objets trouvés, Levi disavows their materiality and tactility. Photographing the books’ ‘spines’, she not only flattens but removes entirely from view their ‘flesh’ the pages and the content – and in doing so opens up a liminal space that can accommodate and illuminate a multiplicity of (sometimes uncomfortable) and connections between the past and the present.

In the human form, our spines form the connection between the psychical realm of our brains and the physicality of our bodies; between our ‘inner’ subjectivity and our ‘outer’ ability to move, communicate and interact with our surroundings. Likewise in the case of the books that Levi photographs; the spines and titles are liminal spaces that mediate their content and the cultural and historical contexts in which they exist. Gérard Genette calls this the ‘paratext’, the “fringe [which] constitutes a zone between text and off-text, a zone not only of transition but also of transaction: a privileged place of a pragmatics and a strategy, of an influence on the public.” Levi’s project works at this juncture. By denying access to the detailed substance and content of these books she denies their overt ‘authority’, yet at the same time she reveals uncomfortable legacies that persist and cannot be wholly escaped.

The various ‘post’ discourses (post-colonialism, post-structuralism, post-modernism) and their influential theorists and practitioners have done enormous amounts of work to deconstruct and destabilise dominant narratives and histories. The process is necessarily ongoing and open-ended; because although many narratives that were once unquestioned have been removed from their dominance and acceptability, it is often through language that their traces and legacies remain.

Thus in the selection of Australian books included in this exhibition, there emerges jarring and disturbing contrasts between titles that clearly belie values that are no longer widely accepted (such as The Aboriginal as Human Being), and other titles which still resonate with national myths (such as Australia the Land of Promise). Other titles like Ourselves Writ Large and The Gulf Between become more ambiguous; for without access to the specificities of their content, these books’ paratexts are revealed in Levi’s project as (necessarily) multifaceted signifiers. They immediately open up a ‘zone of transaction’ that reveals the past as an immanent presence, constantly transformed by and transforming of the present. These now abstracted titles retain a force and power to reveal uncomfortable truths and forgotten narrative tropes, speaking to the way that Australian history and presumed cultural values are constructed and repeated in our contemporary life.

Kate Warren would like to thank Aliza Levi for the stimulating and ongoing discussions; and David Wlazlo for his timely and astute insights.

Gérard Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 2.

 

Aliza Levi. 'The Aboriginal as Human Being' 2012

 

Aliza Levi
The Aboriginal as Human Being
2012
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

Aliza Levi. 'The Gulf Between' 2012

 

Aliza Levi
The Gulf Between
2012
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

Aliza Levi. 'The Report of the Aborigines Committee of the Meeting for Sufferings 1840' 2012

 

Aliza Levi
The Report of the Aborigines Committee of the Meeting for Sufferings 1840
2012
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

Aliza Levi. 'White Settlers and Native Peoples' 2012

 

Aliza Levi
White Settlers and Native Peoples
2012
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

 

Edmund Pearce Gallery

This gallery is no longer open.

Edmund Pearce Gallery website

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16
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘Gordon Parks: Centennial’ at Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco

Exhibition dates: 21st February – 27th April 2013

 

Gordon Parks. 'Ondria Tanner and Her Grandmother Window-shopping, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Ondria Tanner and Her Grandmother Window-shopping, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Edition 19 of 25
Pigment print
14 x 14 inches
Modern print

 

 

What an admirable photographer Gordon Parks was. It is a joy to see five of his colour photographs in this posting because I have never seen any before. They are glorious, complex compositions that ebb and flow like music whilst at the same time they are also damning indictments of the racially segregated society that was America in the 1950s (and still is today). Bitterness, discrimination and racism have deep roots in any country – just look at contemporary Australia. The little girl looks on in Ondria Tanner and Her Grandmother Window-shopping (1956, above), her left index finger bent upward on the pane of glass as the prettily dressed white, automaton mannequins march on, oblivious to her gaze; Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama  (1956, below) are surrounded by photographs, their pose mimicking that of their parents hanging behind them, while before them on the coffee table (under glass) are other, younger members of their extended family. Past, present and future coalesce in this one poignant image.

“Sensibility” is based on personal impressions of pleasure or pain. The sensibility of Parks photographs is a refined sensitivity based on experience – his experience of the discrimination of human beings toward each other. These hard-wired responses toward such a situation will vary from person to person.

These photographs were his hard-wired response. This was his feeling towards subject matter and that is why these insightful photographs still matter to us today.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Jenkins Johnson Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Gordon Parks is the most important black photographer in the history of photojournalism. Long after the events that he photographed have been forgotten, his images will remain with us, testaments to the genius of his art, transcending time, place and subject matter.

.
Dr Henry Louis Gates

 

 

Gordon Parks. 'At Segregated Drinking Fountain, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
At Segregated Drinking Fountain, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Edition 19 of 25
Pigment print
14 x 14 inches
Modern print

 

Gordon Parks. 'Department Store, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Department Store, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Edition 20 of 25
Pigment print
14 x 14 inches
Modern print

 

Gordon Parks. 'Mother and Children, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Mother and Children, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Edition 17 of 25
Pigment print
13 7/8 x 14 inches
Modern print

 

Gordon Parks. 'Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks
Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Edition 17 of 25
Pigment print
14 1/8 x 14 inches
Modern print

 

 

In celebration of the 100th birthday of Gordon Parks, one of the most influential African American photographers of the 20th century, Jenkins Johnson Gallery in collaboration with The Gordon Parks Foundation presents Gordon Parks: Centennial, on view from February 21 through April 27, 2013. Gordon Parks, an iconic photographer, writer, composer, and filmmaker, would have turned 100 on November 30, 2012. This will be the first solo exhibition for Parks on the West Coast in thirteen years. The exhibition will survey works spanning six decades of the artist’s career starting in 1940. The exhibition consists of more than seventy-five gelatin silver and pigment prints, including selections from Life magazine photo essays: Invisible Man, 1952; Segregation Story, 1956; The Black Panthers, 1970; and Flavio, 1960, about favelas in Brazil. Also included in the exhibition is his reinterpretation of American Gothic and his elegant depictions of artists like Alexander Calder, fashion models, and movie stars.

Noteworthy highlights include groundbreaking prints from the Invisible Man series which unfolds a visual narrative based on Ralph Ellison’s award winning novel. The images capture the essence of social isolation and the struggle of a black man who feels invisible to the outside world. Also on view will be a number of colour prints from Segregation Story, 1956, which are a part of a limited edition portfolio of twelve colour photographs with an essay by Maurice Berger. Newly released, these images were produced from transparencies found in early 2012, discovered in a storage box at The Gordon Parks Foundation. In the late 1960s Life magazine asked Gordon Parks to report on the Oakland, California-based Black Panther Party, including Eldridge Cleaver. Parks’ striking image of Eldridge Cleaver and His Wife, Kathleen, Algiers, Algeria, 1970 depicts Cleaver recovering from gun wounds after being ambushed by the Oakland police as well as an insert of Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the party along with Bobby Seale.

 

About Gordon Parks

Parks was born into poverty in Fort Scott, Kansas in 1912, the youngest of fifteen children. He worked several odd jobs until he bought a camera at a Pawn Shop in 1937 in Seattle and was hired to photograph fashion at a department store in Minneapolis. In 1942 Parks received a photography fellowship from the Farm Security Administration, succeeding Dorothea Lange among others. While at the F.S.A., Parks created American Gothic, now known as one of his signature images, in which he shows Ella Watson, a cleaning women, holding a mop and broom, standing in front of an American flag. The image makes a poignant commentary on social injustice whilst referencing Grant Wood’s celebrated painting American Gothic which it is also named after. He became a freelance photographer working for Vogue as well as publishing two books, Flash Photography (1947) and Camera Portraits: Techniques and Principles of Documentary Portraiture (1948). In 1948 Parks was hired by Life magazine to do a photographic essay on Harlem gang leader, Red Jackson, which led to a permanent position at Life, where he worked for twenty years. Parks developed his skills as a composer and author and in 1969 he became the first African American to direct a major motion picture, The Learning Tree based on his best selling novel and in 1971 he directed Shaft. A true Renaissance man, Gordon Parks passed away in 2006.

As Philip Brookman, curator of photography and media arts at the Corcoran, states, “Gordon Parks’ art has now changed the way we perceive and remember chronic issues, such as race, poverty, and crime, just as it has influenced our understanding of beauty: of nature, landscape, childhood, fashion, and memory.”

Press release from the Jenkins Johnson Gallery website

 

Gordon Parks. 'Norman Fontenelle, Sr., Harlem, New York' 1967

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Norman Fontenelle, Sr., Harlem, New York
1967
Gelatin silver print
13 x 9 1/8 inches
Modern print

 

Gordon Parks. 'Ellen's Feet, Harlem, New York' 1967

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Ellen’s Feet, Harlem, New York
1967
Gelatin silver print
6 1/4 x 9 3/8 inches
Modern print

 

Gordon Parks. 'Mysticism, Harlem, New York' 1952

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Mysticism, Harlem, New York
1952
Gelatin silver print
10 5/8 x 10 3/8 inches
Vintage print

 

Gordon Parks. 'Tenement Dwellers, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1949

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Tenement Dwellers, Fort Scott, Kansas
1949
Gelatin silver print
7 x 9 inches
Modern print

 

Gordon Parks. 'Harlem Neighborhood, Harlem, New York' 1952

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Harlem Neighborhood, Harlem, New York
1952
Gelatin silver print
10 3/8 x 13 1/2 inches
Vintage print

 

Gordon Parks. 'Drugstore Cowboys, Turner Valley, Canada' 1945

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Drugstore Cowboys, Turner Valley, Canada
1945
Gelatin silver print
9 7/8 x 12 7/8 inches
Modern print

 

Gordon Parks. 'The Invisible Man, Harlem, New York' 1952

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
The Invisible Man, Harlem, New York
1952
Edition 1 of 10
Pigment print
14 1/8 x 14 inches
Modern print

 

 

Jenkins Johnson Gallery
1275 Minnesota Street, #200
San Francisco, CA 94107
Phone: 415.677.0770

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10am – 6pm
Saturday 10am – 5pm

Jenkins Johnson Gallery website

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12
Apr
13

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: Ignudi, 1994

April 2013

*PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS ART PHOTOGRAPHS OF MALE NUDITY- IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

 

 

This series of photographs is a reconceptualisation of Michelangelo’s Ignudi from the Sistine Chapel. The Ignudi (singular: ignudo, from the Italian adjective nudo, meaning “naked”) are the 20 athletic, nude male figures that Michelangelo painted at the four corners of the five smaller scenes of Creation. Recontextualising the figures implicitly fetches elements from other texts, the meaning of the male body based on its meaning in other contexts and ages (beauty, desire, homoeroticism, nudity, power of the body/phallus), realising a continual unfolding of texts, discourses and conversations in a field of production.

These prints are incredibly rare. There are probably 3 vintage photographs on fibre-base paper of each image at 12″ x 16″ size.

 

I am scanning my negatives made during the years 1991-1997 to preserve them in the form of an online archive as a process of active memory, so that the images are not lost forever. These photographs were images of my life and imagination at the time of their making, the ideas I was thinking about and the people and things that surrounded me.

All images © Marcus Bunyan. Please click the photographs for a larger version of the image; remember these are just straight scans of the negatives !

Photographs are available from this series for purchase. As a guide, a vintage 8″ x 10″ silver gelatin print costs $700 plus tracked and insured shipping. For more information please see my store web page.

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'The Lovers (Major Arcana)' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
The Lovers (Major Arcana)
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive page

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10
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘Don McCullin: A Retrospective’ at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Exhibition dates: 1st February – 14th April 2013

 

Don McCullin. 'Catholic youth escaping a CS gas assault in the Bogside, Londonderry, Northern Ireland' 1971

 

Don McCullin (British, b. 1935)
Catholic youth escaping a CS gas assault in the Bogside, Londonderry, Northern Ireland
1971
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

 

 

“Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures”

“You do not go away from here without carrying a huge burden, if you are a decent human being and you have a conscience.”

“I photograph the humble, the anonymous, who are spontaneous and mirror all of us.”

.
Don McCullin, Sleeping With Ghosts: A Life’s Work in Photography

 

 

Many thankx to the National Gallery of Canada for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Don McCullin. 'US marine throwing grenade, Tet Offensive, Hué, South Vietnam' February 1968

 

Don McCullin (British, b. 1935)
US marine throwing grenade, Tet Offensive, Hué, South Vietnam
February 1968
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

 

Don McCullin. 'Turkish defender leaving the side-entrance of a cinema, Limassol, Cyprus' 1964

 

Don McCullin (British, b. 1935)
Turkish defender leaving the side-entrance of a cinema, Limassol, Cyprus
1964
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

 

Don McCullin. 'Protester, Cuban missile crisis, Whitehall, London' 1962

 

Don McCullin (British, b. 1935)
Protester, Cuban missile crisis, Whitehall, London
1962
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

 

Don McCullin. 'American soldiers, Checkpoint Charlie, West Berlin' August 1961

 

Don McCullin (British, b. 1935)
American soldiers, Checkpoint Charlie, West Berlin
August 1961
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

 

 

For the first time ever, the National Gallery of Canada is organising an monographic exhibition dedicated to the work of a contemporary British photographer. Don McCullin: A Retrospective features a collection of 134 exceptional black-and-white photographs taken by McCullin, an unflinching photojournalist best known for his coverage of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones. His photographs have been published in major newspapers and magazines, including The Observer, The Sunday Times and The Daily Telegraph. McCullin has also created an important body of social documentary work and a series of lyrical landscapes in his native Britain. Several of these photographs are included in the exhibition, which will be on display until April 14, 2013 in the NGC’s Prints, Drawings and Photographs Galleries. “McCullin’s photographs belong in an art gallery because they consistently bring clarity and compositional grace to their compelling subject matter. These pictures are both hard to look at and hard not to.” said NGC director and CEO Marc Mayer.

Don McCullin: A Retrospective highlights works from all of McCullin’s major series: portraits of the poor and the homeless in London and northern England (1950s to 1980s); the construction of the Berlin Wall (1961); war and famine in Cyprus, the Congo, Biafra, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lebanon and Northern Ireland (1964-1982); peoples of Southeast Asia and Africa (1988-2004); and landscapes in Somerset, England, and northern France (1970-2011). In this exhibition, the artist’s journey from working class England to the killing fields and to the landscape of Arthurian myth reveals his searing outrage and profound compassion. Also included are magazines and newspapers relating to past assignments.

McCullin covered war zones on four continents, primarily from the 1960s to the 1980s. His photographs from the battlefields belong to a tradition of war art practiced by Francisco de Goya, Otto Dix and photographer Robert Capa, artists who, like himself, sought to communicate in images the horrors of human conflict. Particularly compelling for their narrative depth, sombre lighting and powerful composition, McCullin’s photographs convey the intensity and intimacy of his human encounters. His landscapes, although also dark and brooding, speak to his desire to distance himself from the subject of human suffering.

Although, McCullin did travel to Syria recently for The Times on one final war assignment (these photographs are not included in the exhibition), his exposure to the worst human atrocities took such a toll on him that he more or less retreated from conflict zones beginning in the 1980s. McCullin does not like being called a war photographer. Nor does he think of himself as an artist, but rather as a photojournalist, or simply, a photographer. In her insightful essay in the exhibition catalogue, Sobey Curatorial Assistant Katherine Stauble writes of the war photographs: “Likely (these images) were not meant to hang on a gallery wall, but rather, to communicate information, to reveal truths and to mobilise action. Now that McCullin has escaped the battlefield and for the past twenty years has been focusing his lens on landscape and still life, one might expect the artist moniker to sit more comfortably with him.

Press release from the National Gallery of Canada website

 

Don McCullin. 'The Guvnors, Finsbury Park, London' 1958

 

Don McCullin (British, b. 1935)
The Guvnors, Finsbury Park, London
1958
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

 

Don McCullin. 'At a café in Finsbury Park, London' 1958

 

Don McCullin (British, b. 1935)
At a café in Finsbury Park, London
1958
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images
Photo © NGC

 

Don McCullin. 'Jean, a homeless woman, Aldgate, East End, London' 1984, printed c. 1985

 

Don McCullin (British, b. 1935)
Jean, a homeless woman, Aldgate, East End, London
1984, printed c. 1985
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

 

Don McCullin. 'Homeless Irishman, Aldgate, East End, London' 1970

 

Don McCullin (British, b. 1935)
Homeless Irishman, Aldgate, East End, London
1970
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

 

Don McCullin. 'Old Vietnamese man, Tet Offensive, Hué, South Vietnam' February 1968

 

Don McCullin (British, b. 1935)
Old Vietnamese man, Tet Offensive, Hué, South Vietnam
February 1968
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

 

 

National Gallery of Canada
380 Sussex Dr  Ottawa
ON K1N 9N4, Canada
Phone: +1 613-990-1985

Opening hours:
Sunday 10.00am – 5.00pm
Monday Closed
Tuesday 10.00am – 5.00pm
Wednesday 10.00 am – 5.00pm
Thursday 10.00a – 8.00pm
Friday 10.00am – 5.00pm
Saturday 10.00am – 5.00pm

National Gallery of Canada website

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07
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘Candida Höfer: A Return to Italy’ at Ben Brown Fine Arts, London

Exhibition dates: 12th February – 12th April 2013

 

Candida Höfer. 'Galleria Degli Antichi Sabbioneta I 2010' 2010

 

Candida Höfer (German, b. 1944)
Galleria Degli Antichi Sabbioneta I 2010
2010
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 220.7cm (70 7/8 x 86 7/8 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

 

 

Ah symmetry, that vague sense of harmonious and beautiful proportion and balance, that patterned self-similarity that, through Hofer’s large format photographs, reflects the vainglorious human edifices of Northern Italy, superbly beautiful in their empty pride. Customarily devoid of human presence, Hofer’s photographs are technically and aesthetically superb. One has to examine the photographs with respect to their relationship to the passage of time, utilising spatial awareness to try to understand why things exist in specific locations within human culture.

“Both in ancient and modern times, the ability of a large structure to impress or even intimidate its viewers has often been a major part of its purpose, and the use of symmetry is an inescapable aspect of how to accomplish such goals.” (Wikipedia) Symmetries are informative of the world around us, and peer relationships are based on symmetry sending the message “we are all the same.” So Hofer’s symmetrical photographs possess opposing messages: we are all the same but some of us are more important (read powerful) than others.

Hofer’s highly symmetrical rooms are unavoidably also rooms in which anything out of place or potentially threatening can be identified easily and quickly, which has implications for safety, security, and familiarity. In this case it is the absence of human presence. To me this is the critical reading of Hofer’s photographs: they comment on the foibles of the human race, a race nearing the destruction of its only place of habitation, reaching the tipping point on the path to annihilation, yet indulging itself in a continuing race of construction and consumption. There will come a point when these edifices are crumbling and in ruins, as an Ebola-like virus races airborne around the world, destroying 90 percent of the population of the earth within months. The Earth will self balance and all we will be left with will be the memory of an empty symmetry.

Symmetry can be a source of comfort not only as an indicator of biological health, but also of a safe and well-understood living environment. The paradox of Hofer’s environments is that in these colourful, exuberant, profuse environments nothing is alive, the interiors becoming meaningless “noise” in an empty, vacuous world. The human race will have left the building.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to Ben Brown Fine Arts for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Candida Höfer. 'Palazzo Ducale Mantova I' 2011

 

Candida Höfer (German, b. 1944)
Palazzo Ducale Mantova I 2011
2011
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 246cm (70 7/8 x 96 7/8 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

 

Candida Höfer. 'Teatro Comunale di Carpi I' 2011

 

Candida Höfer (German, b. 1944)
Teatro Comunale di Carpi I 2011
2011
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 237cm; (70 7/8 x 93 1/4 in.)
Edition of 6 © 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

 

Candida Höfer. 'Teatro La Fenice di Venezia III' 2011

 

Candida Höfer (German, b. 1944)
Teatro La Fenice di Venezia III 2011
2011
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 242cm (70 7/8 x 95 1/4 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

 

Candida Höfer. 'Teatro La Fenice di Venezia V 2011' 2011

 

Candida Höfer (German, b. 1944)
Teatro La Fenice di Venezia V 2011
2011
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 235cm (70 7/8 x 92 1/2 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

 

Candida Höfer. 'Teatro Olimpico Vicenza II' 2010

 

Candida Höfer (German, b. 1944)
Teatro Olimpico Vicenza II 2010
2010
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 235cm (70 7/8 x 92 1/2 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

 

Candida Höfer. 'Teatro Scientifico Bibiena Mantova I' 2010

 

Candida Höfer (German, b. 1944)
Teatro Scientifico Bibiena Mantova I 2010
2010
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 226cm (70 7/8 x 89 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

 

 

German photographer Candida Höfer makes a significant return to Ben Brown Fine Arts in London on 12 February with a major solo show, unveiling thirteen new and previously unseen photographs which catalogue the architectural treasures of Northern Italy.

Mantova, Vicenza, Sabbioneta, Venice and Carpi provide the glorious setting for this new series shot over the past two years, a continuation of Höfer’s previous work in Central and Southern Italy. The interiors of palaces, opera houses, libraries and theatres, which Höfer captures with incredible skill, are part of her meticulous documentation of public spaces – places of culture, knowledge, communication and exchange with a rich history and clear functionality. Having rarely visited the Northern region, Höfer was particularly touched by the naturalness and ease with which the local people there accepted this extraordinary architecture as a part of their daily lives.

Höfer’s portraits of interiors, customarily devoid of human presence, emphasise the solemn magnificence of the Palazzo Ducale, Teatro La Fenice and Biblioteca Teresiana, amongst others. By featuring spaces that celebrate mankind’s greatness, yet where people are nowhere to be found, Höfer’s images possess an unexpected poignancy which has become the hallmark of her work. Höfer produces these large-format photographs without digital enhancement or alteration, using long exposure and working solely with the existing light source. The effect is a rare combination of intimacy and scale, in which intricate architectural detail is captured without sacrificing the sense of space and civilised order.

Höfer, a member of the Düsseldorf School (Kunstakademie Düsseldorf), was a noted pupil of the Bechers, who were heavily influenced by the 1920s German art tradition of Neue Sachlichkeit and pioneered a type of detached objectivity. The Bechers’ black and white photographs of industrial landscapes and architecture embodied a clinical, documentary style, which Höfer has retained in her work through the same neutral and methodical process. Yet Höfer’s large-scale colour prints differ in their more sympathetic approach to the building’s culture and history.”

Press release from Ben Brown Fine Arts

 

Candida Höfer. 'Museo Civico Di Palazzo Te Mantova IV' 2010

 

Candida Höfer (German, b. 1944)
Museo Civico Di Palazzo Te Mantova IV 2010
2010
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 187cm; (70 7/8 x 73 5/8 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

 

Candida Höfer. 'Teatro Olimpico Vicenza III' 2010

 

Candida Höfer (German, b. 1944)
Teatro Olimpico Vicenza III 2010
2010
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 144cm (70 7/8 x 56 3/4 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

 

Candida Höfer. 'Biblioteca Teresiana Mantova I' 2010

 

Candida Höfer (German, b. 1944)
Biblioteca Teresiana Mantova I 2010
2010
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 163cm (70 7/8 x 64 1/8 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

 

Candida Höfer. 'Palazzo Ducale Mantova III' 2011

 

Candida Höfer (German, b. 1944)
Palazzo Ducale Mantova III 2011
2011
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 169cm; (70 7/8 x 66 1/2 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

 

Candida Höfer. 'Palazzo Ducale Mantova V' 2011

 

Candida Höfer (German, b. 1944)
Palazzo Ducale Mantova V 2011
2011
Light Jet print
Edition of 6
180 x 176cm (70 7/8 x 69 1/4 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

 

Candida Höfer. 'Palazzo Ducale Mantova IV' 2011

 

Candida Höfer (German, b. 1944)
Palazzo Ducale Mantova IV 2011
2011
LightJet print
Edition of 6
180 x 176cm (70 7/8 x 67 3/4 in.)
© 2013 Candida Höfer, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts

 

 

Ben Brown Fine Arts
12 Brook’s Mews, London W1K 4DG
Phone: +44 (0)20 7734 8888

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 11am – 6pm
Saturdays 10.30am – 2.30pm

Ben Brown Fine Arts website

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05
Apr
13

Video: ‘InsideArt – Marcus Bunyan’ talks about the exhibition ‘Confounding: Contemporary Photography’ at NGV International, Melbourne

Published on 11th March 2013

 

 

InsideArt TV
Marcus Bunyan – Confounding
2013

 

 

This week on InsideArt TV, Michel Lawrence talks with Dr Marcus Bunyan about the NGV’s intriguing photographic exhibition, Confounding, where the photographs exhibited are not always what they seem. (Series 3, Episode 1, Part 2)

Many thankx to Michel and Inside Art for inviting me to speak about the exhibition, and the NGV for allowing us to film in the gallery.

 

 

National Gallery of Victoria website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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